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The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 was introduced as a bill in both the Senate and the House last week. The bill is also known as the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (CIR). It lays out the immigration vision of the Biden administration and the Democrats in Congress.
What CIR Does for Immigrants
CIR introduces new paths to citizenship and makes it easier for immigrants to stay in the United States. The bill marks a turning point in immigration reform. Democrats have tried to pass it twice before, and the bill is years in the making. But what does it mean for you?
For 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants
The bill provides Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and some farmworkers with a fast three-year path to citizenship. It also gives all other undocumented immigrants an eight-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation.
For Family-Based Immigrants
CIR reduces backlog by using unused visas from previous years. This includes immediate family members of green card holders like spouses and children. The bill also increases per-country caps for family-based immigration.
For Employment-Based Immigrants
The bill reduces the burden for employment-based visas, especially for students with advanced STEM degrees. In addition, it proposes removing per-country limits affecting people born in countries like India, where wait times for green cards can last decades. Additionally, the bill prevents children from aging out of the visa system.
For Asylum Seekers
The bill reduces asylum application backlogs. It also increases protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000. CIR eliminates the current one-year deadline for filing asylum claims as well.
For Other Immigrants and Non-immigrants:
- CIR protects non-immigrant travelers. It prevents a future administration from imposing a ban like the “Muslim ban,” where travel from certain countries was restricted.
- The bill raises the cap on diversity VISA green cards from 55,000 to 80,000 per year.
- CIR is also helping people stuck in the backlog. It introduces reforms that would increase the number of courts and officials to process more immigration cases.
What Happens if CIR Doesn’t Pass?
It’s important to remember that this is a bill, not a law. President Biden has to sign the bill after both the House and Senate pass it. Until then, there is no change to our immigration system. Congress tried to pass CIR twice, once in the 2000s and once in the 2010s, but failed to make CIR into law.
Even though it may not become law, CIR is still significant as a marker bill. A marker bill isn’t necessarily meant to pass through Congress on its own. Instead, it’s meant to be a part of a larger bill.
CIR lays out very clearly where the Democrats want to go on immigration. This bill enables Democrats to start negotiating with Republicans in the Senate. They can also start to zero in on the specific parts of the bill that have enough Republican support. Democrats have the simple majority needed to pass the bill in the House.
However, for the bill to pass the Senate, it requires a supermajority of 60 votes. This requirement means that at least 10 Senate Republicans need to support a bill for it to become law. With the CIR Bill now on the table, informal conversations have already begun in the Senate. Even if the bill fails to become law, this is an important step in the right direction.
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